The Negative Health Effects of Alcohol Use
Alcohol has both short-term and long-term negative effects on the brain and body. Short-term, alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions, making them more likely to engage in impulsive, dangerous behaviors, while also impairing coordination. Over time, alcohol can do significant damage to the essential functioning of the body, putting you at risk for life-threatening health conditions.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking a large amount over a long period can affect your heart, liver, and pancreas, and can put you at greater risk of cancer. Some of the long-term health effects from drinking include:
- stretching or drooping heart muscles
- high blood pressure
- fatty liver
- weakened immune system
While these alarming health effects are convincing evidence as to the deleterious effects of alcohol on the body, there are also major risks for brain health. According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use can cause depression, anxiety, and learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor academic performance.
In addition to physical and mental health symptoms, heavy alcohol use nearly always affects job performance and relationships both inside and outside of the family. According to a pamphlet created by the World Health Organization (WHO) called “Intimate partner violence and alcohol,” alcohol consumption is a major contributor to domestic abuse. In addition to acts of violence against loved ones, reports show that almost one in four violent crimes are initiated by offenders who had been drinking before committing the crime.
After reviewing the list of health problems that alcoholism can cause and its links to violent crime, it seems that abstinence is the obvious conclusion. However, once a person is dependent on alcohol, quitting may seem nearly impossible. Becoming sober and maintaining sobriety is a life-changing journey that should be navigated with the help of others.
What Happens When You First Stop Drinking?
Withdrawal occurs when alcohol use is discontinued by a person who is physically dependent on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal is an uncomfortable process that includes physical symptoms such as:
- sweaty, clammy skin
- nausea and vomiting
- rapid heart rate
Severe withdrawal can include even more alarming symptoms like fever, seizures, confusion, and hallucinations. If you experience symptoms of this severity when you haven’t had a drink, speak with a doctor about medication-assisted withdrawal.
While the body is becoming accustomed to sleeping and waking without alcohol, some things like difficulty falling asleep and low energy may be a hurdle. The first few days to a week might be difficult, but after this period, you’ll likely have more energy, better concentration, and fewer body complaints like headaches and gastrointestinal problems. Added benefits may include lower blood pressure and weight loss.
Long Term Benefits of Sobriety
After you quit drinking, your body begins to normalize. A study measuring the effects of alcohol on medical diagnoses revealed that diseases and a person’s perceived health were no different in former drinkers than in those who were lifetime abstainers. The effects on the brain may be more complicated, but for most people, improvement in brain structure and functioning after abstinence is quite likely.
While a healthy body is an excellent motivator for the cessation of alcohol abuse, another important benefit is mood improvement and consequently, improved social and familial relationships. Not only does family support increase a person’s chances of recovery from alcohol use disorder, but a person’s commitment to sobriety can also tighten the family unit and improve relationships.
Why Not Get Sober?
Many things could be holding you back from getting sober or seeking treatment. Common reasons include fear of abandonment by friends and family due to a concern about not being as fun without alcohol, the perceived impossibility of the task; the idea that life is more enjoyable with alcohol, or the use of alcohol to cope with mental health issues.
If your community isn’t supportive of your sobriety, a new community may be necessary. If you find yourself drinking to soothe your mental health symptoms, you may be putting yourself deeper into a mental health crisis and worsening your symptoms.
Whatever your reservations are about getting sober, the benefits far outweigh the perceived consequences. With improved life expectancy, more energy, better concentration, repaired relationships, and better quality of life, getting sober is a necessity. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. Contact with your primary care physician, your primary therapist, and a treatment center will increase your chances of staying in recovery.
Casa Recovery can help you get sober and stay sober through a treatment program crafted specifically for you. Our highly qualified team of mental health professionals meets daily to discuss your treatment progress and weekly to continue to adjust your treatment to ensure it is working for you. Not only will our staff continue to support you and welcome you as an alumnus when you graduate from our program, but you can also find a community that understands your goals and struggles that will stay with you for a lifetime. Through our family involvement focus and continuing care, we can and will provide you the support and resources you need to take charge of your recovery and stay sober outside of treatment. Whether looking for treatment for yourself or a loved one, Casa Recovery’s program can provide the treatment needed to receive the short and long-term benefits of sobriety. Call Casa Recovery today at (888) 928-2272.